"Same old Bucks."
If you were a visitor from the year 2007, that's probably the reaction you would have had at seeing the 09/10 Bucks drop back-to-back games in uninspiring fashion in Washington and Detroit. Defense? Not much. Rebounding? Meh, too much effort. Road wins? Nah. Andrew Bogut? Still getting owned by Ben Wallace.
Ironically, the 06/07 Bucks actually started their season off with a 105-97 road win in Detroit (nearly reversed tonight), but as is usually the case, a promising start (15-14 through December 27) gave way to a miserable, injury-plagued final 50 games. It's too early to be condemning the 09/10 Bucks to the same fate, but the Bucks have seemed rather lifeless for long stretches over the past two, most notably in their inability to get big (or for that matter even small) stops on defense. And with neither Andrew Bogut (4/9 fg, eight points) nor Brandon Jennings (6/20 fg, 15 pts) providing any fireworks in the scoring column, the Bucks offense has been similarly toothless.
The Pistons had no such problems, as Rodney Stuckey stuffed the stat sheet with 19 points on 11 shots and nine assists. He helped set the tone early, beating Charlie Bell on a pair of quick cuts to the hoop en route to eight quick points that staked the Pistons to a 34-23 edge after one. Stuckey then beat Brandon Jennings and the halftime buzzer with a layup that restored the Piston lead to eight.
Detroit then used an early 8-0 run to push the lead to 14 in the third, and with the exception of some typical small Bucks runs managed to lead the game by double-digits most of the way. Jonas Jerebko was active and looking very un-rookie-like with 16 and 7, and ended the game by packing Charlie Bell on a three point attempt in the waning seconds. Fitting? Yes, fitting.
Luke Ridnour. If you were a visitor from two months ago who dropped by just for the last two games, you might be surprised to see Brandon Jennings still starting. After all, the kid's preseason didn't exactly scream rookie-of-the-year favorite, and Luke Ridnour has been outperforming him for a couple weeks now. Normally that would be a knock on the rook, but the reality is that it's mostly just a tribute to Ridnour, who continued his torrid shooting streak of late with a 7/11 shooting night, 21 points, and nine assists. That's now four out of six games with 20+ points.
Carlos Delfino. Delfino came out looking charged up against his former team, making 6/7 fg en route to 15 points by the half. Second half? Well, the charge wore off. The Argentine missed all five of his shots but still had one of the few respectable lines on the team: 15 on 12 shots along with seven boards.
Brandon Jennings. Young Buck still can't make shots to save his life (6/20 fg), but he continues to do other things--dish it out (eight assists), grab long rebounds (five boards), and for the second straight game he took care of the ball as well (one turnover after none two days ago). He made a couple big threes as the Bucks tried to stay in it late, but missed another triple and a layup (when Jerebko wasn't called for hitting him on the arm) in what seemed a fittingly frustrating end to the night.
57%. Detroit's fg%...'nuff said.
46-30. The Pistons just waxed the Bucks on the glass, and with Bogut back (plus a brief cameo by Luc Richard Mbah a Moute) there's no excuse for it. Big Ben led the way with 11, compared to Bogut's five in 27 minutes.
20-9. The only area where the Bucks did themselves favors was in the turnover department, as they both took care of the ball and forced 20 Detroit turnovers.
Luke's still here. Alex and I have been joking about the inevitability of Luke Ridnour's return to earth, but so far he's not giving in. It's not that Ridnour can't shoot the ball, but he's never been close to this good for a full season (51.3% shooting right now vs. 41.7% career). Did he steal Brandon's mojo or something a couple weeks back? Who knows, but hopefully he doesn't go cold now because there's no one else picking up the slack. Somewhat interestingly, he's putting up his excellent shooting splits in spite of the fact that he's once again under 40% on inside shots (which is as terrible as it sounds).
Luc's back. He only played 12 fairly ineffective minutes, but it's still a very good thing to see LRMaM out of his boot and back on the court. Have fun with LeBron on Sunday, big guy.
Skiles will be back. Skiles wasn't pleased after the last game and probably wasn't a fun guy on the flight home, either. Let's hope the Bucks' uninspiring play over the last two can be at least somewhat explained by the absence of their fearless leader.
Jennings' shot. To say Jennings hasn't been able to shoot is a little deceiving; his three point percentage hasn't cratered but his percentage on everything worth two points has. Tonight Jennings finished 3/10 from deep and the same from inside the arc. It's a shame too, because he started the night off so promisingly with a one-handed floater from the elbow. Tough shot.
Instead, Jennings continues to find himself in a prolonged slump. In the last seven games he hasn't been above 33% shooting even once, a streak so bad that Chris Duhon himself might be taking notice. Thankfully he's still getting other guys involved, but he knows he's needed to score and it's just not happening for him. His frustration was evident after the game with this tweet:
I'm done shooting the ball. Straight passing
Bogut's...everything. That 22/15/4 game against Chicago seems so long ago, doesn't it? The Palace once again proved more like a prison for the big man, who again seemed to let Ben Wallace get in his head and stymie all his attempts to get going early on. Normally short guys struggle to keep Bogut from shooting his short hooks over them, but Wallace is stout enough and his hands are quick enough that Bogut never seems comfortable going at him. Worst of all, those offensive issues seemed to carry over to the other facets of Bogut's game as well. Wallace threw down four dunks to finish with 11/11 on the night, while Bogut grabbed a measly five in 27 minutes and was a team-worst -16.
Opportunity knocks. Had they gotten some vaguely respectable shooting nights from their starters, the Bucks could quite possibly have taken both of these games on the road trip. Instead, they came away with two demoralizing losses that put them at 9-9 and losers of six of the past seven games--and with the Cavs next up on the schedule.